November 2, 2000
Read the book
As an Iranian-American who just finished reading Persian
Mirrors by Elaine Sciolino I have to say that I am very surprised and
disappointed at the letters I have read regarding the book in The Iranian.
It seems many have not read the book. For those who are commenting without
having read the whole book, I encourage you to read it in its entirety
first before commenting on it. The excerpt, "The
twelve rules" is a very personal experience for the author and
should not be used to judge the rest of the book. I personally found the
rules to be accurate myself, whether they are human or Iranian characteristics,
but again, this is personal.
Sciolino writes a fabulously sensitive and insightful book on her personal
experiences with the country and with Iranians. The book, itself, is a
glimpse of Iran through a fascinated, curious American eye who has enough
contact with the country to form solid impressions. And no, we're not talking
about a few parties in northern Tehran; the author's insights reveal a
much deeper connection with the country. The book is not an attempt to
define Iranian culture, history, or politics, but a brave and intelligent
interpretation of each dynamic in our society. It is the best I have seen
in a long time by a non-Iranian writer/observer, and such a job well done
Parsa says it best, that outside views can only allow one to know oneself
better and to improve oneself. The rest I believe is cliche.
Entessari's diatribe is particularly disturbing and irrelevant. His
is that time-honored tradition of criticizing for the sake of criticizing.
People like him cannot offer anything of substance, but instead spend time
perfecting a criticism. Entessari spends an enormous amount of time criticizing
the author for simply choosing to write about her experiences and impressions
on Iran, not dealing with the experiences and impressions themselves. Then,
when he does get into content, his criticisms are unbelievably irrelevant.
Sciolino clearly did not choose the book to be a forum for dead debates
and political fingerpointing. Mr. Entessari, the author did not shoot
down the Iran Air plane, she did not orchestrate the Mossadegh coup. She
has addressed these and other events fairly in the book. Have you read
Khalili's letter is even more cliche and uninformed. Her self-righteous
and self-absorbed comments are pointless. Somehow she believes that she,
or other Iranians, are the rightful owners or interpreters of Iranian culture.
This is the most dangerous phenomenon of the Iranian mind. Ms. Khalili,
what makes you think your version of reality is not an illusion? What gives
you the right to interpret Iranian culture or Amerian culture and then
call other interpretations and experiences an illusion? Your arrogant
comments are baseless. You may disagree, but at least tell us what you
disagree on, unless it's an illusion, of course. Wait, have you read the
Let me remind my fellow Iranians that Iranian culture and civilization
is a highly sophisticated one, with centuries of overlapping history and
tradition. It is not possible for anyone to absorb any culture fully, including
us Iranians. The beauty of culture and society is that it's fluid; it's
not a solid unmoving phenomenon, it's born from humans, and there is nothing
sacred about it. Iranian society is as dynamic as ever. As Iranians, we
shouldn't be intimidated by foreigners commenting on our society. We should
not intimidate those who are fascinated by our culture and who want to
write about it, and understand it better. These criticisms ring hollow
to me; they have become a bad habit. We are good at criticising, but not
at producing something positive. Is it because an Iranian or an Iranian-American
failed to write such a book that makes some resentful? Write your own book.
I believe Sciolino offers something positive: an American woman's understanding
of contemporary Iranian culture. We need that and we should want that.
We should encourage study and analysis of our society by everyone, by foreigners
and by Iranians, and then learn from it. Anything less reflects our own
fear of knowing and learning.
I very much enjoyed reading Ms. Sciolino's book. It was funny, interesting,
and a delightful read. It is a good addition to the body of American knowledge
on Iran and Iranian society. I thank the author for writing it and for
her deep appreciation for Iranian culture.